After mudlarking, I came home with my yellow bucket, shaped like an upside-down turret, full of slime and history. I washed each item and lined them on my windowsill in order of size. The stems of old pipes, some a few centimetres, one twice as long as the others, one with the bowl for tobacco still intact; a tooth big enough for a cow; shards of blue-flecked ceramic, all hairline cracks; a piece of green glass, smooth edged, shining with underwater light if I wet it.
After rockpooling, I brought home my yellow bucket, with sand and salt stuck to the sides. A delicate accumulation of the primordial. I lined my windowsill, arranged by type: broken limpet shells with missing peaks, all edges, good for stringing onto a necklace; mussel shells, less purple when dry; stones criss-crossed with white lines; sea glass, blue this time; broken quartz, faint pink in sunlight and grey in my bedroom; a mermaid’s purse; the bodies of orange and sand-coloured crabs, upside down, and the smell of decay.
After fossil hunting, I sat in the wet sand on Charmouth beach, with my feet in the sea foam, waves licking my ankles. There was one piece of prehistory in my bucket. We had come too late in the day to find much. I turned the ammonite over in my hands, held it at different angles in the light. It was brown-grey, a small spiral, ridged. When I had memorised the look and feel of it, I got up and waded until I was knee deep. The water was cold, and I could feel stones, sharp under my feet. I lowered my hand beneath the surface and opened my fist, watched it slide off my palm. Back you go, I said.
Saskia McCracken is a writer and editor based in Glasgow and a member of 12 Collective. Her poetry and prose have been published in Datableed, Amberflora, Adjacent Pineapple, Zarf, –algia, Front Horse and Bluehouse Journal, among others, and anthologised in Glasgow (Dostoyevsky Wannabe 2021) and An Unofficial Apprentice Poetry Anthology (SPAM press 2020). @SaskiadeRM